Lewis Hamilton got a call from hospitalised Lauda. Photo: Mike Segar/Reuters

AUSTIN – An upbeat Lewis Hamilton said Saturday that he had a very happy surprise this week when Niki Lauda phoned him from his hospital bed in Vienna.

The world championship leader, who can clinch his fifth title in Sunday's United States Grand Prix, was delighted to hear from his Mercedes team's non-executive chairman who has been recovering after a lung transplant.

“He called me two days ago,” said Hamilton. “I was shocked to hear from him. “I told him 'you sound younger than ever'. He is determined to come back and he is grateful to the doctors for all their good work and to his wife.”

Hamilton added that Lauda told him he expected to be discharged from intensive care soon.  

“For sure, I'll be in Vienna to visit him before the end of the season,” said Hamilton. “We miss him here in the team, but we have his spirit with us at the races.”

 Lewis Hamilton speaks to Niki Lauda of Austria during the first practice session of the Australian F1 Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne in March 2014. Photo: REUTERS/Brandon Malone
Lewis Hamilton speaks to Niki Lauda of Austria during the first practice session of the Australian F1 Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne in March 2014. Photo: REUTERS/Brandon Malone

Lauda, who has been a staunch supporter of Hamilton since he left McLaren to join Mercedes, underwent surgery in August.

Hamilton will become only the third driver to win five championships if he can outscore nearest rival Sebastian Vettel by eight points in Sunday's race.

Agence France-Presse (AFP)